Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pilgrim's Map of the Day

*Let's start off today's map with a look at what is being passed off as church in the United States today. This is a tape of Rick Joyner's Morning Star Ministry and is definitely disturbing to watch and should pain our hearts. "Oh how you have fallen Morningstar" - Isaiah

*Of course one of the staples in the recent discussions regarding the decline of the church has been the discussion of music style and choice in worship. Todd Deaver from Bridging the Grace Divide very graciously posted a recent note from Brother Cecil May regarding what May found was an error in reporting May's stance on part of this discussion. From this error, flows one great writing by May that needs to be read by all. Click here to read the posting.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An Appropriate Response

Richard Mansel of Forthright Magazine wrote and sent out a wonderful article today dealing with the very heart of the discussion of my previous post. I ask all who want to be part of the solution to click and read this article, taking time to study the passages that Mansel bases his editorial on. This is great stuff.

In case you missed the link above, click here.

Monday, January 26, 2009


So, something happened to the Wii at our house this weekend and it would not really work that well. That afternoon, as I sat down with Ethan and Luke I was flipping to the channels hoping to find a good basketball game or cartoons. As we skipped over TNT a picture of the Titanic was on the screen. Ethan, having just recently read a book about the Titanic (I'm so proud of him), said "go back, go back." We then proceeded to sit there and watch the movie Titanic (don't worry, I flipped it during the "love scene" and "drawing scene"). Ethan and Luke were full of questions through the movie and will probably never want to go on a cruise after seeing what happened to that ship.

As I watched, my mind slipped away to an article I have read in the past week and that has become quite the conversation piece on Church of Christ blogs online. In the article I refer to, Bobby Ross Jr. of the Christian Chronicle presented recent statistics regarding the declining numbers in the Church of Christ. If you would like to read it for yourself, which I suggest you do, here's the link. Needless to say, the numbers are alarming and the solution, assuming there is one, is not a simple one. Are we, like the passengers aboard the Titanic, aboard a sinking ship?

Of course the answer to that question is no. We know from scripture (Matt. 16:18) that the church itself will always stand firm, even when faced with the gates of Hell. Therefore, we are not aboard a sinking ship, but there are holes that need filling. As I look at the problem though, I see it is a people problem just like on the Titanic. Was it the iceberg's fault that the Titanic was sent to the depths. No, that's irrational. The iceberg was just there serving whatever purpose God created it to serve. The sinking of the Titanic was the fault of man and the removal of the church in America will be from the hands of man.

The creators of the Titanic thought that they had built something that was beyond reproach. Oh, Church of Christ. How often have we members heard that criticism. Sadly, it is based on fact. There were and are members of the church who continue to believe that we do it perfectly and that all others are inferior. Yet, the church is made up of people and scripture teaches us that there are zero amount of perfect people. We must repent of this attitude and return to being repentant sinners who are attempting to worship God in the way that we have read is most desirable to Him. I believe and trust that God will once again raise his hedge of protection around the American church should this occur.

Even more chaotic though than the sinking of the Titanic in the movie was the reaction of the people and as I scan the landscape of how people are reacting to these declining numbers, I see many similarities.

01 - Those below decks fueling the ship. These people to me represent those in the church now who are fueling the current path the church is taking. These are the ones who are steaming our current course. The gossips, back-biters, unrepentant, and refusing to learn. All they think is that if they get on board the ship and do their job that they will get paid or rewarded someday for it. These people are trying to work their way to some place and are fine with remaining in the murky and burning conditions they find themselves in daily. Not willing to do the study that it would take to improve their condition they find themselves in the same joyous rut day in and day out. Then, the alarm sounds that the time has come to leave that place and seek higher ground. Aboard the ship, some escaped as they realized their condition soon enough, yet some were locked in that place, doomed to perish in the environment that up to that point was just good enough for them. Brothers and sisters, the alarm is sounding.

02 - The watchmen - There are those in the church who are watching and see what is coming. These people are currently out sounding the alarm and telling the church to change course (think Joe Wells). Yet, is it too late. Have we already hit an iceberg that has done too much harm to be able to stay on our course to our desired destination? Of course not, but we are letting water on board. The more compromises we make as a church in the name of relevancy the further from the truth we will become. Fortunately, there are those watching and who see the danger and damage that has already occurred. They cannot fix it though.

03 - The clingers - These are the ones who are simply accepting the fact that things are bad and are going down with the ship. There is a cut scene as the ship fills with water in the movie in which a peasant mother is shown tucking her two children into bed singing a lullaby. That scene used to invoke an emotion of sadness in me but when I saw it Saturday I became quite disgusted. Granted, they may have been part of the people who were locked in their quarters in the hope of saving the others, but how can she not even fight. Instead, seeing the danger that is at hand, chooses to simply go about her routine as if nothing is wrong, giving her children a false sense of security. Are we guilty of this? Are we seeing the danger that is around us and the fact that our churches are losing youth? Are we not tucking them and our members into the same false security that many of us were tucked in to, in the hope that until the ship sinks, they will believe that everything is alright. I have much more to say about this matter but I feel it warrants its own post later in this week.

04 - The jumpers - If you have ever seen this movie, the thought must be etched in your mind of the people jumping off the ship as it capsizes. There is the one guy who jumps from the back and on his way down hits the ship's propeller. I would find it very unlikely that any of these people survived. These people saw that there was a problem that was going to take more than just themselves to fix and decided to jump ship, likely plummeting to an icy grave. This seems to be the current trend among young adults in the church today. They are all aware of the problem as they see it and know that something must be done in order to survive. Sadly, rather than staying and trusting in God to bring them through, they are jumping out of church in the simple hope that they'll land in something better. Hopefully they will survive and we need to learn to recognize and reach out to those people before they jump.

05 - The workers - These people to me are different than those who were working below decks. These were the people who had studied and shown themselves approved enough to be above decks and to lead the ship and its guests in day to day activities. The captain, first mate, musicians, etc... As the time came to evacuate the ship in search of survival, these men (with exceptions) were the ones pointing people to survival and performing a task that they knew would end in their dying. Preachers, elders, deacons, and teachers. These people are you. At this time more than ever, our churches are looking at you and wanting to know how to survive. They know there is a problem so don't try and mask it. Rather, give them the solution. Point them to the life raft of gospel truth and help them aboard teaching them that although it can't be seen at this moment, there is a ship coming. Look, we know we are going to die individually someday, but what will happen to those who came through our doors looking for survival? By accepting Christ crucified and being willing to be one of the elect that God has chosen to shepherd, we have accepted a duty to teach the gospel and to guarantee the safety of as many as we can.

There are other comparisons that can be made but I will avoid those to avoid any appearance of blasphemy. Allow me to say this though, regarding the starlet of the movie, someone gave their life in a horrible way so that she would have survival. She only survived because as the ship was sinking, she kept climbing higher and higher

Out of the many aboard that ship, only a few survived. Does scripture not warn us over and over that only a few shall survive this journey that we are on. No, that is not a call to complacency but rather a call to turn our boats back and rather than worrying about heading into the world, seeing if we cannot pick some of those who are barely surviving back up. The call is not to redesign the framework of the ship, but rather to look at what role human error played and improve on the design that has already been laid before us. The call is not to make more law that condemns other efforts to cross great divides, it is a call to preach Christ crucified as He has told us that He has the power to do anything. The call is to trust God that come what may, He will bring us home in His own way and to be satisfied with the fact that God has allowed us to survive and work with the past and next travellers to insure that no such catastrophe will ever occur again because we took our eyes off of the goal at hand.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cultivating Young Hearts

So, what a nice surprise I received two days ago. My wife Joy informed me that she had been designing and is prepared to start a blog of her own. I always thought she looked at me as a bit of a rube for even having a blog but I guess I was actually influnicing her to do great things (please don't burst that bubble of mine). She is going to focus her blog on her quest to serve God through raising children as a Godly and holy mother. I know it will be great and useful to other Christian parents as she is smart, devoted, and deeply spiritual. Notice I didn't put funny (my wife is not funny even though she really thinks she is). I hope she will use it as an avenue to share the growth of our three sons and I look forward to reading it often.
So, please check it out by clicking this link to her first post that explains her reasoning behind the blog. I am adding a link to my blogroll on the right of this page. The address is

Pilgrim's Map of the Day

It's been a while since I have gotten to get a map up of any substance so I hope you find something in this edition that will span over the holiday season (yes, it's been about 5 weeks since I have gotten to look at my blog reader).

* For starters, I just watched this and this is one of the best pro-life messages I have seen in a long time. Make sure you watch.

* Bad news Israelis. Obama's first call to a foreign leader was to the Palestinian leader. Atlas Shrugs has the story here.

* Pay attention. This is what journalism is and should be about. Just the facts, you decide how you feel.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


No, the title is not meant to say "pity." The title is Piety. Piety is a sin and please do not fail to remember that. While a real definition is difficult to verbalize, it is something that we need to be on guard for. The best way I can define it is that it is a practice found in a theology that the believer in that practice feels gives them an advantage or more elite status than that of ordinary Christians. Look at what happened to the church at Colossians for an example. These Christians, who even then had allowed false teaching and belief to corrupt them, had come to believe that they held the Christian secret to live a more superior Christian life than that which Paul had left them with. Think, "live your best life now" (sorry Joel Osteen).
The problem with this was, as Paul so elegantly pointed out in this epistle, was that they had come to forget that Jesus Christ had already done all the work for them to receive salvation. Verse 14 states that Christ took away our need to be legalistic about sin when he "nailed it to the cross." How beautiful, how wonderful.
These Christians had become pious and Paul was not afraid to call them out on it. They had come to forget that they (we) were saved by grace and that no work we do on this Earth will change that fact. Notice in verse 18 where Paul discusses the churches asceticism. Webster's defines asceticism as "practicing strict self-denial as a measure of personal and especially spiritual discipline." The Greek translation of this word literally means "laborious." When I hear labor one word comes to mind: work. So Paul is telling me that I can't work my way to heaven. What if I quit my job, home school my children, pray four hours a day, and give all my money to the church. Surely that will make me more special in God's eyes than that other guy down the road who just comes to church and never participates in any of our "purpose driven" or "relevant" activities. No, Paul reminds us that no act we do will make us any less of a sinner in need of God's grace. Even more importantly, no act we as parents do will make our children less of sinners in need of God's grace. Should we attempt and shelter and protect our children from harm? Of course we should. Can we save them? Of course not!!
Gospel. Gospel is the answer. We must stop teaching works or as Paul would have to consistently remind the first century converts we must must stop teaching law. At home, school, church, small groups, wherever it is it must stop and we must be the voice to stop it. Law is not the answer and it leads to piety and unfulfilled, unrepentant, and unwilling Christians. If you preach, great, preach the gospel. If you teach, great, teach the gospel. If you work, great, work through the gospel. If you study, great, study through the gospel. If you parent, great, parent through the gospel. Teach Christ and examine what you and your children are being told at church. If you hear something other than the gospel, find a new church. It is when we step outside of the gospel and the call to discipleship that we become pious Christians who stop acting through faith but rather through law. Being pious does nothing more than to take your mind off the gospel. The more you work to become that perfect Christian with a perfect wife and perfect children who show no appearance of sin the further from the cross you get and the more reliant on the idol of self you become.
Whoever you are and wherever you read this I write this next sentence because I love you and I cringe at the thought of one soul perishing in Hell. You are a sinner and I know it. In the same breath I say that I am a sinner and you had better believe it. Should I ever become pious and believe that I can do enough to be able to consider my sins sanctified by my own action then I may as well put my New Testament away and dwell only in the Old. How do I know these things? Is it because I have done special acts or worked harder than anyone in my church and God has revealed a higher spiritual order to me? No. It is because through the gospel (which is in the Bible) I have come to learn that the most extraordinary thing I can ever ask to be is a Christian. No more, no less. Condemning no one and only focusing on my own sins and my belief that I am saved through Christ's most selfless act is what gives me the assurance and my knowledge that if I trust God, He will bring me home by an act that has already taken place. Christ crucified.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Who is in Your Life? Reflections from a Study of Isaiah

As one begins to read the book of Isaiah, they are introduced to a story of God's patience being tested to the breaking point. Fed up with the people of Judah, God has made the decision to allow foreign men into their country and to utterly destroy the people of Judah in a hope that they would some day return to Him. This is a decision that had to have troubled God and Isaiah was his messenger to Ahaz, the king of Judah. God sent Isaiah to Ahaz to tell him that yes, hell was coming, but that everything would be fine. At this point, God finds (as if he didn't already know) that Ahaz's trust in God was in word and not need (see Isaiah 7). This refusal of Ahaz to accept the peace that God was attempting to bestow sent God's wrath to a different level and a subsequent worsening of the pain that God was going to allow to be put upon the people of Judah.
As the study of Isaiah goes further we learn that God promises a redeemer to not only the people of Judah, but to all. That redeemer is of course Jesus Christ and no book in the Bible more succinctly sets the table for Christ's coming than Isaiah. Praise God.
There other, less important lessons in this story of Ahaz found in the first part of the book of Isaiah. One of these is one that when I presented it to my Sunday School class of brilliant young adults was debated. That lesson is that when we don't trust God with all aspects of our lives, no matter how small or important it seems to us, that His protection (a.k.a. Christ's intercession for Christians) is lowered from around us and people are allowed into our lives, homes, and affairs that will rip us apart given the chance. Just as God's lowering of protection from around Judah allowed the Assyrians and Syrians to come in and destroy their nation, the same applies to our lives today. When we refuse to trust God with our total care He will remind us that we should (if were lucky).
No more so can this be applied than to the recent financial crisis in our nation. If this hits you wrong, then I am sorry but sometimes we need to be reminded of what our lack of faith is doing to our lives. That being said, if you have/are investing money in the stock market, 401Ks, or other elaborate investments in which you say, here, take my money, do as you please (good or evil) with it for now, and then let me reap the benefits of it later, then you are showing a lack of trust in God and you need to examine your faith (as I do as well). You are essentially saying "God, I know you told me you would care for me but I better follow what the world tells me to do on this one so I can have a happy retirement and send my kids to college." That doesn't sound like trust to me.
We Christians so eagerly and happily hand over differing percentages of our monthly incomes to stock brokers who do God knows what with your money. We fund debauchery!!! When is the last time you checked the faith of the owners of your company that you contribute to keep afloat and get richer. Think for a second about your financial advisers. Have they ever offered to discuss the gospel with you? Have you ever followed up with what foundations, causes, or religious efforts the companies you invest in support? I don't know a great many stock brokers but from what I've seen in their depictions in movies, they aren't the best people in the world. What are you saying to God when you trust someone like that more than Him regarding your financial future? What are you saying to God when you contribute more to a company that is pro-choice (as if you've even checked) than to your church contribution? Need we be reminded that Job rued the day he was born when God lowered his protection from around him?
I am inspired to write this as men close to me have lost millions in recent months. These are holy and good men and when you hear them discuss their losses they do so with a undertone of regret that they may have forgotten what was important. These people that God allowed into their lives have now caused them pain, worry, and heartache and it saddens me to see it. I think to Matthew 25 and I see men's hidden money being spread out to those who already have more than they can count. How sad.
I urge all who read this to evaluate your finances and investments and look at who you are giving your money to. Is it not an idol set up to the god of success and wealth? If not then God bless you for being a good steward of his gifts. If so, look to Jesus' words in the gospel and find in your heart what he expects us wretched sinners to do with the gifts he allows us to receive. Do it before God lowers his protection more. Avoid prosperity gospel and remember that God doesn't want you to be happy financially, He wants you to be happy spiritually. God bless you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Life Support

What a great weekend we just had. Our church, along with the help of some others (God bless great elders) hosted Joe Wells of Focus Press as he presented his fantastic seminar for youth and families entitled Confronting Culture. It was a truly great event that a great deal of effort went into both organizing and inviting people of all denominations to attend.

I just deleted a post that I was going to put up after I prayed about it. It started like this "Let me preface what I am going to say next by quoting Paul from Romans 11: 'I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.'"

Instead I am going to put this. God's word is excellent and provides us answers when we don't know where to look or what to say. I was conflicted with feelings of spiritual uplifiting and disappointment this weekend due to a lack of attendance at the seminar this weekend. Not knowing what to say or how to say it I turned to scripture. I was reminded of Romans 11 as I read and especially one verse (Romans 11:18). Paul states, "remember that it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you."

Paul is discussing with the Gentiles the fact that they are being placed in Christ's kingdom but to avoid being proud or thinking they are better than the Jews who had rejected Christ. Paul reminds the Gentiles that the Jews and the bloodline of Christ is what supported and brought forth Christianity and God still loves the remnant who accepted Christ. In other words, Paul was telling them to work with them and love them the same as one another.

It is not I who support the gospel, but the gospel that supports me. God's word will get spread despite what I do but I know that He appreciates the effort that so many of you put in to make this weekend possible. I know that He appreciates those of you who attended and who I can look back on meeting and realize that you are my root. Your desire to come and feast on God's word and Christian fellowship have been a support to me. Thank you.

In conclusion, let us always remember the story of Jesus' visit to Mary and Martha. One sister chose to clean and care for worldly things while the other chose to sit and bask in the glory of God in flesh. To those of you who were asked and dare I say begged to come and support this Christian effort this past weekend, which did you choose? Which of the sisters was pleasing in Christ's eyes? Let us all get behind one another and support each others ministries. Not to make one another happy, but to please a Lord who suffered and died for us.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Happy New Year

So, it's been well over a month since I last posted. Things have been hectic over the holidays with the new baby and all. I should be posting more often now, hopefully beginning today. I hope all of you have dedicated this new year to coming closer to God than ever before and that we can strive to meet Him together. I have but one resolution in this new year and that is to put Christ at the head of everything in my life. Please pray that I am successful.